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Group J: Lee Man edge Eastern Long Lions for perfect AFC Cup start

Hong Kong: Debutants Lee Man made a triumphant opening bow on the AFC Cup stage, defeating Hong Kong Premier League rivals Eastern Long Lions 1-0 in their opening Group J match on Wednesday.

A 26th-minute goal from Gil Martins settled the tie, with the Brazilian striker punishing an error from Yapp Hung Fai to hand Chan Hiu Ming’s men a milestone result.

The win takes Lee Man to second place in the group, with Saturday’s clash against leaders Tainan City likely to play a pivotal role in deciding their hopes of making knockout stage at their first attempt.

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They may have been appearing for the first time in continental competition, but Lee Man showed little in the way of nerves, taking the game to their more experienced rivals and wresting the early ascendancy in persistent rain.

Eastern goalkeeper Yapp was forced into a hurried clearance to snuff out a half-chance in the 19th minute, but it was the skipper’s footwork which brought his side undone seven minutes later.

Looking to play their way out of defence, Yapp sent the ball directly into the path of the lurking Jonatan Acosta, who played the ball around Yapp to Gil Martins, giving the in-form forward a five-yard tap-in which was Lee Man’s first goal in the AFC Cup, and may well end up as one of the easiest in this year's competition.

Eastern had a terrific chance to square the ledger in first half stoppage time, only for Pakistan-born Naveed Khan to miss a header from point blank range after he was set up by a clever Chung Wai Keung cross.

With their lead intact at the break, Lee Man nearly doubled their advantage thanks to the Gil-Acosta partnership early in the second half, with the former setting up his South American colleague before Acosta’s low effort was kept out the woodwork.

Eager to turn the tide, Eastern made four substitutions in the space of seven minutes, but Acosta remained the game’s chief contributor, and he went close to adding what would have been a well-deserved goal of his own with 20 minutes remaining.

But Gil’s early strike proved decisive, giving Lee Man a victory savour, while Eastern – who failed to register a single shot on target - will have no room for error when they meet Athletic 220 of Mongolia in three days’ time.

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